I hadn’t heard of the Knobe effect before. Or experimental philosophy, for that matter. But I found this article to be a fascinating read:
Now, the Knobe Effect is of interest to me for a couple of reasons. The main one is that I have been thinking about the emotional content of the tax avoidance debate and how the words ‘avoid’ and ‘dodge’ have become quite emotive.
Too emotive, I feel. They seem to have inherently negative connotations (to me), and this derives from the element of intent suggested by the words.
I think the “avoiding” or “dodging” of tax requires a person to actively participate. It requires an assessment of what will happen without any action and then an intentional action intended to circumnavigate the outcome.
And this is where I think the Knobe effect comes in. If you change the subject of the experiment from the environment to tax (you’ll need to read the wikipedia summary), I predict you wouldn’t see a significant change in behaviour. Of course tax has an effect on profit, so you might need to change the motive of profits to something else.
But I guess people would see a reduction in tax and presume it is intentional.
I’m not talking about pre-arranged schemes which are sold as investments. Clearly these are intentional. Instead, I’m thinking of something like transfer pricing, essentially a function of compliance, where there has to be an appropriate amount decided.
If a TP calculation were to raise the tax profile of a group, I feel people would assume this were not intentional. On the other hand, were the TP calc were to reduce the tax profile of a group, people would assume this were intentional.
Anyway, that’s my opinion of what you would see, but I might have to test this myself.